Is Ground Sharing a Successful Partnership?

by Leana Kell

One of the biggest success stories of rugby league clubs ground sharing with football clubs is that of Adams Park, where Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps shared the ground from 2002 until December 2014 when they ended their successful 12-year partnership in favour of larger headquarters at Coventry City FC's Ricoh Arena.

Is ground sharing always a successful partnership? We take a look below at some of the pros and cons.  

Great for Reading FC.. but maybe not for London Irish RFC

In August 1998, the Madejski stadium in Reading was opened as a home stadium for Reading F.C and London Irish R.F.C. It was built with the ground share in mind and is a great venue for both clubs, but despite all the positives, there has been many incidents in the past where Reading has demanded to the RFU that London Irish's games be called off or rearranged if there is an important football fixture coming up, to maintain the quality of the pitch.

Fans reacted initially... but it's a boost to the community

 

When rumours started circulating around Premiership side Wasps potentially moving to Coventry FC's Ricoh Arena, football and rugby fans reacted badly. Many suggested the move simply wouldn't work, not because of the actual ground share, moreover the impact the arrival of the Wasps would have on Coventry FC and the city in general.  However, so far the move has provided a welcome boost to the City of Coventry and create a premier sports hub for the community, with 28,524 people watching the Wasps' triumphant debut in December - the highest Premiership rugby crowd at a club ground in history.

Ground share attracts more fans.... particularly to Rugby League

In 2012, the Sale Sharks confirmed they would ground share with rugby league side Salford City Reds after signing a 25-year lease. The move was welcomed by the Super League club, chief executive David Tarry said: "It is a real boost for the city of Salford to have an elite club from both codes within its boundaries." Two years later, the two clubs celebrated the ground share by holding a charity match to a sell out crowd. Not only has the ground share increased both club's ticket sales dramatically, it has been successful in attracting more rugby union fans to the game of Rugby League.

Increased attendance... but difficult ground transformations

Since Wigan FC and Wigan Warriors began to share the DW Stadium (owned by Wigan FC), the Wigan Warrior's average attendance increased by 32.5 per cent, whilst the extra revenue from the rugby ticket sales provided a welcome source of finance for the football club. But, due to the nature of rugby and football fixture lists, rugby matches are played on a Friday evening, whilst football matches are played on Saturday afternoons. This creates an incredibly quick turnaround for ground staff to cope with to ensure the pitch is to a suitable playing standard the following day. Larger clubs can usually cope with the changeover in time, but for smaller clubs this is a far more difficult job.

Is ground sharing successful?

Since the mid-1990s, when rugby went professional, ground sharing with football teams has provided rugby club owners with a platform to reach out to a potential new audience. In addition, football clubs who are in need of revenue can profit very well from the arrangement, but all ground shares come at a cost and it remains highly debatable as to whether the pros weigh out the cons.

 

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